With world governments failing to agree to reductions in the production of greenhouse
gases, the outgoing United States energy secretary Bill Richardson has made it
clear that he does not favour government action to help his country’s car drivers
move towards environmentally friendlier cars.

Speaking in Montreal at the annual meeting of the Electric Vehicle Association,
Mr Richardson acknowledged that pickup trucks and sports utility vehicles were
the fastest growing sector of the country’s transportation sector in terms of
fuel consumption, and that cars trucks and buses accounted for a third of the
country’s carbon dioxide emissions.

In an interview afterwards Mr Richardson rejected the idea that greater regulation
could help encourage greater fuel efficiency, saying instead that he felt the
way forward was through the government’s research projects with the big three
auto-makers – Ford, DaimlerChrysler and General Motors.

"We favour joint partnerships and gentle persuasion, and I think they
have worked – we may be close to some major breakthroughs which will enable
drivers to have their SUVs but with fuel efficient engines."

All three auto-makers say they are close to producing a hybrid version of an
SUV in the next few years – a car with an electric engine for low speeds
when petrol ones are least efficient, and with a petrol engine and energy from
braking to charge up the battery. Current saloon models, (such as the Toyota
Prius just launched in the US and Europe), are around 50% more fuel efficient
than petrol equivalents.